Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Exploring the Back Roads": Stretch Your Field-Trip Muscles

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Homeschoolers love field trips. What better way to experience the world, than to actually get out and explore it?

Sometimes, however, we find ourselves stuck in a rut. We start going to the same museums, the same parks, the same historical sites. The kids get bored. We get bored. And the family ends up staying home.

If you live in, or plan to visit, the Bay Area of California, you now have no excuse! Peter Browning's book, Exploring the Back Roads: 28 Day Trips in the Greater Bay Area, is filled with new and interesting suggestions for places to go.

Dedicated to "the guy who invented second gear and the illegal U-turn," Browning's book opens up a world of field trips to even the least adventurous among us.

Exploring the Back Roads divides the greater Bay Area into four areas: Marin to the Sonoma Coast; Wine Country to the Geysers; Carquinez, the Delta, and Contra Costa; Santa Cruz Mountains, the Coast, and Old San Juan. Naturally, distances to these areas varies greatly depending on where in the Bay Area you live, but most can be easily done in one day. If some seem a bit far, include them in a two- or three-day trip, or tack them on to a road trip headed to a far-flung destination.

Browning provides plenty of information about each trip, such as pictures, maps, history, nearby parks and restaurants of interest, and so on. The ultimate destinations aren't an end unto themselves, but part of a greater journey on picturesque roads, past beautiful scenery, and through parts of our area most people miss.

Our family has done a few of the field trips (Lick Observatory, San Juan Bautista-Fremont Park, Santa Cruz to Castroville), adapting the suggested sites and drives to suit our family's interests and needs. We have noted even more of Browning's suggestions in our "Places We Like To See" binder (look for more information in a future article).

For more field trip ideas,
check out GHF's Virtual Field Trips page.
A few suggestions for those using Exploring the Back Roads, or any other travel guide:
1) Check, either online or by phone, for current hours at your destination. Browning last updated his book in 2006, and some locations have made changes since then.

2) Map out your excursion using online or printed maps. You will get a better idea of actual drive times and distances from your location.

3) Either plan ahead for bathroom breaks, or be on the lookout while driving. I never cease to be amazed at how fast a child's bladder works once in the car.

So, pack a picnic, belt those kids in the car, and hit the road. Book-learning is good, but real-life learning is amazing!

Article by Sarah J. Wilson

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